The Christensen family called it the eternal problem: "What will we do with mom today?" With three kids and a husband who all love to ski, Pat Christensen didn't think she had a place in her family's life when the snow was flying-until last winter when she went to Winter Park, Colo.
While her family was off skiing, Pat took a snowcat tour to the top of the mountain. She got an eyeful of the Continental Divide and an earful of local history on subjects ranging from the Ute Indians to the Moffat Tunnel. She was also able to meet her kids at the mid-mountain Snoasis Restaurant for lunch and watch them take a run or two. The following day, Pat took a gentle snowshoe tour through beginner terrain where again she could watch her kids ski. For the rest of the week, she spent a few hours daily on the mountain. And after years of feeling left out, Pat Christensen finally had found a place on the slopes.
Wooing an avowedly non-winterized spouse to the slopes is no easy task. There has to be more than the promise of sitting around a fireplace with a good book. Much more. The trick is to choose a resort where there is an array of extra-slope activities.
If shopping, restaurants and concerts are the activities you'll need to close a deal, the obvious choices are Vail and Aspen. Vail, of course, offers Adventure Ridge, with its skating and snow tubing facilities, and the new Vilar Center for the Arts at Beaver Creek. Aspen has perhaps the best restaurant scene between New York and Los Angeles, world-class shopping and cozy haunts such as Explore Bookseller & Bistro. Both mountains also offer cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing opportunities.
But beyond Vail and Aspen, there are many spots that you might not have thought of-places where you can ski hard and your companion can have a wonderful experience, as well. The following resorts offer a wealth of things to do during a three- to five-day ski vacation. And when it comes to picking a homebase, this may be one of the few times that an in-town location or a remote and romantic inn may be preferable to a slope-side site.
Jackson Hole, Wyo., the epitome of a skier's mountain, might not strike you as the first choice for a non-skiing companion, but consider the following: There's a world-class painting and sculpture collection at the National Wildlife Museum, as well as sleigh rides into the heart of the National Elk Refuge. There's also the Great Plains Wildlife Institute, which organizes trips to the edge of Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks to see wildlife up close with a biologist. You can also spend a day taking the classic snowmobile tour to Yellowstone, where an hour and a half of riding on groomed trails brings you to Old Faithful. Closer to Jackson Hole, take a tour to Granite Hot Springs, where you can exchange a snowmobile for a bathing suit and dip into the thermal springs. Or ride the chairlift up Snow King, the ski hill located three blocks off the center of downtown, don snowshoes, and go for a nature walk with a park ranger before having lunch at the summit. In town, there are more galleries than you can find in your average cowboy town, upscale shopping outposts such as Polo and always a spare saddle or two at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.
Salt Lake City, Utah, is another good option. It offers concerts, restaurants, shops and the NBA's Utah Jazz. If you want more, there's a nightlife scene that continues to pick up and a burgeoning number of coffee houses and brewpubs. And with Alta, Snowbird, Park City, The Canyons, Deer Valley and Sundance less than an hour distant, it's easily the best city/ski combination in the country. Whether you lodge in Salt Lake, an economical choice, or stay at one of those ski areas, a non-skiing companion has a city's worth of things to do while you're playing in Utah powder.
The Taos and Santa Fe areas present maybe the most tempting array of non-skiing activities, and you can effortlessly spend a couple off days in each place. Drive 35 minutes to ski the glades and the 12,000-foot peaks of Ski Santa Fe for the day, while your companion soaks in a sublime Japanese hot tub at 10,000 Waves, checks out the Native American vendors in the old village square, visits the new Georgia O'Keefe Museum and meets you for dinner at Inn of the Anasazi. Then head to Taos. The skiing at Taos Ski Valley may be spectacular but non-skiers are better off exploring the laid-back town. Highlights include following the trail of D.H. Lawrence and visiting the Taos Pueblo. Attending Native American dances or day-tripping to places such as Chimayo can be done from either Santa Fe or Taos.
In the East, you might be satisfied with the challenging vertical drop at Whiteface Mountain, but your companion will find that Lake Placid, N.Y., is equally exciting. Watch ski jumping or ice skate on the Olympic rink. The Adirondacks are a winter-lover's dream: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and luge running reign. The Olympic Museum is also a treat. And Montreal, with its museums, cafes and chic shopping at prices that make every Yank smile, is only 90 minutes away.
In Vermont, Stowe is easily the best bet for a non-skier. Its picture-postcard looks will win anyone over. And if you come during the Stowe Winter Carnival, your reluctant pal will get a real taste of what makes winter so special in these parts. Take your partner up the mountain on the gondola for lunch or to dinner at The Cliff House, or wander the charming New England town. Spend a day together on skinny skis at the nearby Trapp Family Lodge. Or take the afternoon off and head over to Burlington-Vermont's hippest little city.
If your non-skiing spouse needs foreign allure to travel with you, one of the most dramatic options is the Canadian hat trick of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper, Alberta. The mountain scenery, including a day trip through Columbia Icefields between Lake Louise and Jasper, is arguably the most stunning in North America. Lake Louise can turn anyone into a cross-country skier or snowshoe devotee. A moonlit sleigh ride around the lake is a great way to end the day. Banff and Jasper have charm, good shopping and grazing elk on the main streets. And all three resorts come wonderfully cheap thanks to great package deals at Canadian Pacific Resort hotels (800-441-1414) and the strong American dollar.
While you actually may coax your companion onto the slopes, don't count on it. Just be content with the fact that he or she is having as much fun as you are-and that no one is home alone.
For more information on travel and resorts, visit www.skimag.com
In 1997, the most profitable in industy history, airlines flewmore than 205 million empty seats. (U.S. DOT data)